Hard to imagine, listening to the Cumbrian hail beating against my window as I write, the July warmth of southern France and the excitement of last summer’s botanical quest.

In my Grande Flore Illustrée des Pyrénées, its portrait hides discreetly, bottom right of the broomrapes. A bit of a misfit, being part of the African violet family, or Gesneriaceae, which is represented in Europe only in two areas: the Balkan peninsula, and the Pyrenees, the mountain range where France merges into Spain.

It’s Ramonda pyrenaica I’m after. I’ve studied the black and white drawing in the Flora, all crinkly ...


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